Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Starring Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Billy Campbell, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Expectations: I expect to still love it.


It is always with a resigned sigh that I start to review a film I’ve seen a multitude of times. It’s always hard to find what to say, as my perceptions of the film are inevitably shaped by my previous experiences with it, and are therefore somewhat suspect. But even though I’ve seen Bram Stoker’s Dracula several times throughout my life, I’m still drawn back to it, and I still enjoy it every time. That says something right there about the power of the film, even if some of that power is just pure nostalgia.

I’m sure it has something to do with first seeing the film while I was a young, impressionable kid, but this has always been my favorite telling of the story, and it remains so. This version was billed as being true to the novel, and while it’s not exactly that, it’s definitely much closer than the previous adaptations. This time through, I noticed that Bram Stoker’s Dracula felt in spots almost like an amalgamation of the previous Dracula films, creating a distinct and unique version of the tale, but still paying homage to what had come before as well. Specific shots reference Nosferatu, Oldman’s Dracula voice contains shades of Lugosi’s, and the Gothic overtones and vivid color scheme remind me greatly of the work of the Hammer studio on 1958’s Dracula.

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The Brides of Dracula (1960)

Starring Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, Yvonne Monlaur, Freda Jackson, David Peel, Miles Malleson, Henry Oscar, Mona Washbourne, Andree Melly

Directed by Terence Fisher

Expectations: Moderate, I’ve heard this one was weak.


I can’t believe it, but it’s been a whole year since last October! I know, right, who woulda thought? What I’m getting at is that last October I watched my first Hammer Horror films, loved them and hoped to check out more during the following year. The DVD of The Curse of the Werewolf also came with The Brides of Dracula, so I thought I was well on my way to attaining that goal. I decided to wait a bit after October, but weeks turned to months, and while I got dangerously close to watching this a number of times during the past few months, I instead decided to just wait until October and go for the whole full circle thing. Watching The Brides of Dracula has reminded me of something I had somewhat forgotten in the wake of my first Hammer films: that Hammer films are incredible! Oh man, I have no idea how I survived for so long without ever seeing one, as these would have been instant classics with me during my horror-starved adolescence.

The Brides of Dracula is an interesting Dracula movie in that there’s no Dracula! Spoiler alert for the first film in this series, but Dracula got plumb fucked up! The sun streamed down as he lay on that lovely zodiac wheel on his tile floor, and Dracula turned to ash. So I’m not totally surprised that in the sequel he’s still dead; there’s not really a way to come back from that, is there? OK, OK, there must be, because Hammer brought Christopher Lee back for the next film, and honestly I’m quite interested to see how exactly he does come back from that. But anyway, The Brides of Dracula! Don’t be fooled by the title, this isn’t specifically about Dracula’s brides, although the Dracula stand-in does eventually have a little harem going on.

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Dracula (1958)

Dracula (1958)
AKA Horror of Dracula

Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling, Carol Marsh, Olga Dickie, John Van Eyssen, Valerie Gaunt, Janina Faye, Barbara Archer

Directed by Terence Fisher

Expectations: High. Love Dracula, loved the first Hammer movie I saw.


Based on the success of The Curse of Frankenstein, Hammer decided to make more movies in a similar vein and Dracula was next in line. It seems like a natural fit for the studio, with intense characters and gothic visuals bursting forth from the source material. While I don’t think it’s as good of a film as The Curse of Frankenstein was, Hammer’s Dracula (Horror of Dracula in America) is an engrossing, enjoyable slice of celluloid cake. As with all of these standard horror monsters, the stories are all part of our culture. From a young age, we teach our children about vampires and their weakness to garlic and sunlight. All of these vampire bullet points show themselves here, but what makes Dracula interesting is the slightly varied take on the events of Bram Stoker’s classic novel and the wonderful performances from the entire cast, just like in The Curse of Frankenstein.

Peter Cushing is absolutely phenomenal as Dr. Van Helsing, playing the cool, collected vampire hunter with an ease rarely seen on-screen. He’s all hero here, tracking Dracula’s movements and staking vampire hearts. The difference in the character from Baron Frankenstein, and Cushing’s ability to make Van Helsing his own, shows just how good of an actor he is. Perhaps this shouldn’t be worth mentioning, but in this day and age when we have people like Tom Cruise and Will Smith that literally bring the exact same style and cadence to nearly every role they are given, I think it warrants a quick aside. And let’s not forget Christopher Lee as Dracula! Lee played Frankenstein’s monster as well, and his ability to inhabit both characters so flawlessly is impressive. After seeing Dracula, it’s clear to me that the success of Hammer Studios wasn’t simply due to the filmmaking or the enhanced violence for the time. It is thanks in large part to the wonderful work of their cast, of which Cushing and Lee were the stalwart anchors.

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